morganselah
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Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 12:46 am

My library is considering purchasing 5 or so Raspberry Pis and basing Library events /programs around them. I'm not sure that will work.

Library events usually involve something you can take home with you- an art project, a gingerbread man, etc. Unless participants brought their own Raspberry Pis (unlikely in this poor, rural area) then they would just be playing with the ones we have. They wouldn't be able to take the projects home, or apply anything they learn at the library once they get home.

Can anyone think of a Library Event based on Raspberry Pis where participants can make something inexpensive to take something home, or apply something they've learned once they get home?

Thanks in advance, everyone! ~Heidi

stderr
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 1:06 am

morganselah wrote: Unless participants brought their own Raspberry Pis (unlikely in this poor, rural area) then they would just be playing with the ones we have.
Sort of like how they used to do that with books back when public libraries spent money on those and not lots of blockbuster movie DVDs.
They wouldn't be able to take the projects home, or apply anything they learn at the library once they get home.
People pay a lot of money to go to a university that has lab classes. While they might be able to take their pi home there, or whatever, they are unlikely to take home a lot of what they get to use in lab. What they do take home is the knowledge to use those tools and the new capacity to perhaps quickly learn new tools and systems as those become available to them later.
Can anyone think of a Library Event based on Raspberry Pis where participants can make something inexpensive to take something home, or apply something they've learned once they get home?
You can certainly teach programming and that might be used on systems they have at home. The chance to try out a pi (or whatever) can mean that later they choose to invest in one themselves for their own home. Given the money spent by libraries, at least in the past, on MP3 players for books on "tape", those certainly cost more than a pi, I can't see any reason not to do this if you have people who are willing to shepherd the new users through the basics and beyond. I wouldn't just give them access to a pile of stuff to break, that would be a mistake.

ame
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 1:31 am

When the Pi Zero becomes more easily available it is conceivable that people could take one home after using one at the library.

It is true that the peripherals start to add up, but there could be shared keyboards, mice and monitors at the library, then the participants could take their Zero home and decide what to do next. Having a hands-on session at the library at least lets people see if they want to spend more money on playing with the Pi.

Here I can buy a USB keyboard for about $4, and a USB optical mouse for about $2. An HDMI cable is about $1, and microSD cards are available for a few dollars for various capacities. Cell phone chargers start from about $3 up. The biggest expense is the display, but you could argue that most people have an HDMI-capable TV. If not, a regular TV can be made to work, or you can log in with an ssh terminal on a smart phone.
Last edited by ame on Thu Dec 24, 2015 2:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

W. H. Heydt
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 2:01 am

If people have their own SD card, they could use it at the library on a library-owned Pi and then take it home (with their project on it). It would probably help to have a full image, on which raspi-config has already been run to flash cards people bring in.

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davidcoton
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 6:04 am

Does your library loan out books? If so then why not loan out the (much cheaper) Pi0? Still a problem if your clients don't have the rest of the kit, but it might help some.

I learnt to program using a mainframe computer at a local tech college, visiting once a week. We went there with decks of cards we could punch (hand punch machine!) at school, or hand write a program and use the powered punch machine at the college -- or if we were lucky submit a form and have the college staff punch for us (1 week turnaround)!! I'm sure it is possible to provide weekly sessions of teaching, "hands on" time and support (debugging!), with students producing handwritten code at home in between. I'm assuming you can regulate class size to allow one Pi per participant at any one time in the library, so no sitting around waiting for a Pi to type or run code. Incidentally preparing handwritten code teaches students to pay more attention to getting it right, rather than letting the Pi show syntax errors, and then discovering the logic errors at run time.


+1 for the post above by W. H. Heydt.
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rpdom
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 6:42 am

I would welcome a Raspberry Pi event at my local library. I would even help run one. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much interest in it. All I've managed to do so far is to start a knitting group.

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Jim Manley
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Thu Dec 24, 2015 6:45 am

In another few months when we can only hope availability will improve, the Pi Zero will be a great option for this sort of scenario, and if keyboards, mice/trackpads, displays, etc., are needed, the community (including Parent Teacher Student Associations) should be canvassed for donated equipment. Most businesses have tons of keyboards, mice, and older displays (4:3 Standard Definition - SD - are fine as long as they have a white DVI-D connector) that are just waiting for a typically-annual recycling event, so rescue them before then, or conduct the recycling pickup service yourself. Sometimes, the components' only "defect" is that they don't fit in with this year's "decor", or are out-of-warranty. Another source is Freecycle.org where you can find serviceable keyboards, mice, monitors (my record free display is a beautiful Viewsonic 27-inch HD monitor), cell/tablet chargers, etc.

One of the classrooms where I teach just inherited four desktop PCs with DVI-D capable 4:3 monitors, keyboards, and mice that had recently entered that latter category, and that the school district IT department doesn't want to bother supporting any more. I'm free to do whatever I want with any of these components, so using the keyboards and mice with Pii is fine, as is powering the Pii from any handy source of 5 volts, such as USB ports on nearby desktop or laptop computers already being used for other purposes.
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
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morganselah
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:27 pm

Just want to thank everyone for the variety and thoughtfulness of replies. I feel like I have some possibilities now to work with. Many thanks! ~H.

dpeach
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Sun Dec 27, 2015 12:56 am

My library is asking me to do some type of Pi-based program targeted towards kids. While the library doesn't own any Pis yet, they are willing to buy a few if I felt like it would help. I first plan to do a couple of hardware demonstrations to get some interest up and then plan a multi-week program where I teach a little Scratch and show how to control hardware.

You certainly don't need a Pi to program with Scratch. But using the Raspberry Pis to teach Scratch opens up the world of showing the kids what can be done on their computer at home and that, if they worked hard mowing a couple of lawns, they could buy their own computer.

Our library probably won't loan out the ones they end up buying, but we will probably put together a kit of electronics components that can be used in the library. I will probably also make up laminated cards that step them through hooking up the hardware and using Python and/or Scratch to control their LEDs, buttons and buzzers.

Another thought I have had along these lines is to have a master image that is stock Raspbian with a few programs pre-loaded to control the hardware that we show the kids how to use. Then when something gets corrupted (as I am sure it will), we can re-image the SD card and be ready for the next day.

I am just a patron at the library, but have enjoyed volunteering to teach various programs. I encourage everyone else to get involved in your local library if you can. What a great way to pass on our love for the Raspberry Pi.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Sun Dec 27, 2015 9:38 am

dpeach wrote: Another thought I have had along these lines is to have a master image that is stock Raspbian with a few programs pre-loaded to control the hardware that we show the kids how to use. Then when something gets corrupted (as I am sure it will), we can re-image the SD card and be ready for the next day.
http://pinet.org.uk/ solves that problem. Nothing gets stored on the Raspberry, everything is safely stored on the pinet server. The SDCard can't be overwritten (unless you choose to give a user's account root privileges).

Combine that with the change that allows non-root users to wiggle GPIO pins and it's all a whole lot more secure.
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Gbaman
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:32 pm

DougieLawson wrote:
dpeach wrote: Another thought I have had along these lines is to have a master image that is stock Raspbian with a few programs pre-loaded to control the hardware that we show the kids how to use. Then when something gets corrupted (as I am sure it will), we can re-image the SD card and be ready for the next day.
http://pinet.org.uk/ solves that problem. Nothing gets stored on the Raspberry, everything is safely stored on the pinet server. The SDCard can't be overwritten (unless you choose to give a user's account root privileges).

Combine that with the change that allows non-root users to wiggle GPIO pins and it's all a whole lot more secure.
Thanks Dougie, yip that is correct, PiNet would be a perfect solution for this. You maintain a single master operating system on your server machine and to reset the Pis back to that, you simply reboot them.
One important correction though to make is currently PiNet does not support this new sudoless GPIO, it is currently work in progress, although far from simple to implement.
But, the SD card is unmounted anyway by the time the user has logged in, so the user would have to know how to mount the SD card, where to look to access the files then know how to delete them. So far, I have not heard of a single instance where that has happened maliciously. And if someone did figure it all out and delete the files, is a simple 10 second reflash of the SD card. So I wouldn't worry about that.
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ejolson
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:45 pm

dpeach wrote:Our library probably won't loan out the ones they end up buying, but we will probably put together a kit of electronics components that can be used in the library. I will probably also make up laminated cards that step them through hooking up the hardware and using Python and/or Scratch to control their LEDs, buttons and buzzers.
I think I understand your point. When I was first introduced to computers I was told, don't worry if you make a mistake because you can't break anything and in the worst case all you have to do is reload the software and start over. While still generally true for software, the difficulty of reloading Microsoft Windows became a significant impediment to learning by making mistakes, and thus the Raspberry Pi where the operating system can easily be reloaded by reformatting the removable sdcard.

Note, however, that the impossibility of breaking a Raspberry Pi by making a mistake does not hold true for physical computing involving the GPIO. In this case, shorting the wrong two pins together can immediately ruin the entire computer. This is something that needs to be taken into account in situations where the person using the Pi is not the responsible owner. However, as the cost of a Pi is about the same as a dinner for two, these situations are supposed to be rare, even for young children. Therefore, it makes sense for the library to loan out keyboards, mice, monitors, sdcards, power supplies, wires, resistors, transistors, diodes, LEDs, motors, switches, breadboards and other physical computing accessories but not the Pi itself, which in my opinion should be owned by the person using it.

Pithagoros
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:27 pm

ejolson wrote:I think I understand your point. When I was first introduced to computers I was told, don't worry if you make a mistake because you can't break anything and in the worst case all you have to do is reload the software and start over. While still generally true for software, the difficulty of reloading Microsoft Windows became a significant impediment to learning by making mistakes, and thus the Raspberry Pi where the operating system can easily be reloaded by reformatting the removable sdcard.
This problem was solved years ago by having swapout hard drive drawers, the hard drive was simply swapped out and the machine back to square one in seconds, meanwhile the broken one went onto another machine and was ghosted (re-imaged) and was ready again for the next swapout. Never any need to go through an install every time. I still have some of those old swappable drive drawers in a cupboard.

Fast forward to the 2000s, and every training course I've been involved with in the last few years has used VMs, and we just snapshot and revert at leisure.

ejolson
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Re: Raspberry Pi at the Public Library?

Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:37 am

Pithagoros wrote:Fast forward to the 2000s, and every training course I've been involved with in the last few years has used VMs, and we just snapshot and revert at leisure.
Agreed. We can now tinker with operating systems in virtual machines like IBM did in the 70's with VM/370. Having the boot drive on removable flash media is like booting MSDOS from a floppy in the 80's. The real breakthrough with the Pi is reducing the cost of ownership to the point where people can experiment by hooking up all sorts of wires to the GPIO without worrying about breaking the bank when things go wrong.

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